We all know that dogs are great friends. They bring a smile to our face after a long day’s work or when we are feeling low. Dogs are also the most preferred when it comes to choosing a service animal.
Choosing a dog is a challenge for most people as animals, like humans, have different personalities. Choosing a dog for a person with a disability or an illness is an even greater challenge. While most people know of service dogs that help people who are blind or deaf go about their daily activities with ease, few are aware of service dogs that can be life savers for those suffering from seizures.
If you are planning to get a seizure alert/response dog for a loved one, here’s what you need to know.
What is a Seizure Alert Dog?
A seizure alert dog has the ability to sense a seizure before it occurs and warn the affected person before he/she experiences it. These dogs can sense an impending seizure minutes or hours before the person shows any clinical signs of being affected with a seizure.
There is no specific answer yet as to how dogs sense seizures. Some people think that as dogs are adept at reading body language, they may be able to detect minor changes in a person’s behavior or body language that may occur before the seizure.
Other people assume that dogs may be able to detect subtle changes in body odor before a seizure. While there is no scientific proof, several people claim that their dogs display seizure alerting behavior thus giving them time to sit or lie down and preventing them from fatal injuries. Dogs who display seizure alerting behavior well in advance enable people to take medications or even call for help before the seizure occurs.
Dogs have been known to display a wide range of behaviors that can be considered as seizure alerting behaviors. Barking at the owner’s face or emitting a warning bark, pacing restlessly, licking the owner’s hands, are all considered to be seizure alerting behaviors.
Whether dogs truly can or cannot detect seizures, the fact remains that dogs cannot be trained to detect such things. However, if a dog displays such an exceptional trait, owners need to identify it and encourage it.
What is a Seizure Response Dog?
A seizure response dog may or may not be able to detect seizures before they occur. However, these dogs are able to help the person affected by a seizure in many ways. Unlike seizure alert dogs, seizure response dogs can be trained to help a person when the need arises.
A seizure response dog can help in various ways such as:
- Retrieving medicines or a phone
- Rolling over a person during a seizure so that he can breathe
- Clearing the affected person’s mouth of vomit
- Getting help by barking, by operating a pre-programmed phone, or by activating a medical alert
- Pulling away objects that may be potentially dangerous to the person
- Attempting to get the person into a conscious state and acting as a brace to help the person get up on his feet
- Stopping the person from banging into objects or falling down the stairs during the postictal stage
- Providing emotional and physical support
- Carrying important information about the person’s health and emergency measures to be taken
A seizure response dog can be taught to stay with the affected person throughout seizures. Once a seizure ends, a person may feel disoriented. In such times, the presence of a dog can have a calming effect on the person’s mind. Furthermore, people who are affected by seizures in public settings may feel embarrassed when they recover. Having a dog by the side can help in diverting other people’s attention to the dog’s qualities.
What Breeds Are Seizure Dogs?
Golden retrievers, Samoyed crosses, German shepherds, setter mixes and many other breeds and mixes can predict, alert, or help individuals with seizure disorders. Instead of belonging to a particular breed, it is more important for a dog to be people-oriented and responsive to human feelings and emotions.
All service dogs need to be friendly and be able to stay calm in public places. Dogs that can get aggressive or over-protective of the owner, and those that are shy or nervous won’t be able to do well to help the affected individual when the need arises.
How Can One Get a Seizure Assistance Dog?
The field of training dogs specifically to act as seizure response dogs is relatively new. However, you can get in touch with service dog training programs to see if they have a dog to suit your requirements or if they can train a dog for you. You can also get in touch with personal trainers and ask if they can train a dog to be a seizure response dog. Be wary of fraudulent organizations or fraudsters who make false claims.
If the affected person already has a dog, it can be trained to become a seizure response dog. The dog’s favorite toys or treats can be used to train it. If the dog loves new toys and takes well to new treats, you can try some freebies to see what works.
Having the affected individual play their dog’s favorite game after recovering from a seizure will help the dog identify the seizure phase. Remember to be patient with the dog and don’t forget to give it lots of treats when you see the desired behavior.
Studies show that with low stress levels, the chances of a seizure are minimal. And what better way to bring down stress levels than by having a furry friend by your side?
Korie Cantor has been working as a freelance writer for a long time. She has a diverse background in dog’s health and fitness. She loves sharing her opinions on the latest issues affecting dogs.